In our most recent post in the “Learn More About your Plastic Sheet” blog series we featured our extruded TPO and highlighted some of the characteristics and attributes of the material. Today, we will switch gears to discuss a very diverse polymer that is used in a variety of end use markets from household appliances, to automotive interiors, to construction tool sets and electronics – Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS).
The versatility of ABS allows this material to find a home in many unexpected niche markets, and different grades of this material can be specifically engineered to satisfy specialty applications. In this blog we expand upon on the unique properties of ABS that allow it to find a home in such a wide variety of end-use markets.
- ABS is Very Structurally Sturdy
The sturdy nature of ABS is part of the reason why this material is suitable for applications ranging from critical applications like the Class-A surface substrate in automotive interiors, to utility applications such as dunnage trays. This sturdiness can be attributed to the makeup of the material. Combine the strength and rigidity of acrylonitrile and styrene with the toughness of polybutadiene rubber and you are left with a material that has excellent impact resistance, toughness, and is ideal for applications where sturdiness, strength and stiffness are a critical requirement.
- ABS is an Amorphous Thermoplastic Polymer
ABS is a thermoplastic polymer that is opaque in its natural state. The thermoplastic nature of ABS means that this material can be heated to its melting point, cooled, and re-heated again without significant degradation. Instead of burning, thermoplastics like ABS liquefy which allows them to be easily reprocessed for sheet extrusion and sold back into a thermoforming operation.
ABS is also classified as an amorphous polymer. Polymers exhibit two types of morphology in a solid state – amorphous and semi-crystalline. Whereas a semi-crystalline polymer refers to a plastic with organized and tightly packed molecular chains, the polymer chains for amorphous plastic materials are more disorganized. In an amorphous polymer the molecules are oriented randomly and are intertwined. To offer a visual, the organization, or lack thereof, of the polymer chains for amorphous materials are often compared to a plate of cooked spaghetti. Amorphous polymers like ABS are also isotropic in flow, meaning that they shrink uniformly in the direction of the flow and transverse to flow. This typically results in less shrinkage and less warping than with semi-crystalline polymers.
- ABS is Recyclable
Because ABS is a thermoplastic and not a thermoset, this means that the material can be recycled, ground up, reprocessed and reused into utility applications. This provides an even lower cost alternative for applications where aesthetics are not the main concern. Impact Plastics currently offers Utility / Recycled ABS sheet for non-critical applications.
- ABS has a Strong Resistance to Corrosive Chemicals
At room temperature ABS plastics are characterized as having good chemical resistance to concentrated and diluted alkalis, diluted organic acids, diluted hydrochloric, nitric and sulphuric acid, aliphatic hydrocarbons (gasoline) and to many aqueous salt solutions. In addition, mineral, animal and vegetable oils do not attack ABS.
However, while there are many chemicals that ABS is resistant to there are several that attack this material, causing it to swell up and dissolve in part. These chemicals include low molecular aromatic substances, ketones, ethers, esters and chloro-hydrocarbons. Concentrated mineral acids, e.g. concentrated hydrochloric and sulphuric acid, fuming nitric acid and concentrated organic acids also act in a destructive manner.
- ABS Can be Custom Colored
The availability for custom colored and color match ABS makes this product a great option for both permanent and disposable point of purchase display. ABS can come in high and low gloss versions depending on aesthetic requirements, and the custom colors are added during the extrusion process eliminating the need for any paint work post-molding. Exact color matches are obtained by our x-rite color matching system and formulated by our partners.
- ABS has a Low Melting Point
ABS plastic is not typically used in high heat situations due to its low melting point. While this makes for easy processing, it also introduces one of the few limitations of the material. Although ABS is an FDA certified material, the low heat temperature produces limitations for certain markets because it cannot be microwaved or exposed to high heat environments.
- ABS is FDA Certified
ABS is relatively harmless in that it doesn't have any known carcinogens and there are no known adverse health effects related to exposure to ABS. That said, ABS is typically not suitable for medical implants. Three products in the Magnum range of ABS resins have been approved for use in food contact application by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Magnum manufacturer Trinseo notes the FCN approval cover use in kitchen appliances, utensils and food packaging for frozen storage or at room temperature.
For questions regarding how you can use ABS in your next thermoforming application, check out our materials page, or download our ABS material solutions to learn more today!